Vacations were called off before they even began for some football coaches in the Santa Clarita Valley, in theory if not in actuality. Physically, they might have been away from school and the sport, but in spirit they couldn't escape.
"I go to the store to get a six-pack of Coke," Hart Coach Rick Scott said. "They don't give me the change right away, they ask about the game. It's on the tip of everyone's tongue."
Has been for months--since Dec. 6 in fact, when the 1985 season ended.
"That was the first question someone asked me after we lost to Muir in the (Coastal Conference) championship game," Scott said. " 'What about Canyon?' "
Indeed, it would seem difficult for the '86 season to have a much better beginning than Friday night's matchup at College of the Canyons in Valencia between Canyon Country Canyon and Newhall Hart, schools located about four miles apart playing a game that will have much more at stake than area bragging rights.
And what a buildup there has been.
The streak: Canyon has won three straight Northwestern Conference championships and boasts a 38-game winning string, the longest active run in California and just eight short of the state record set by Temple City in 1974. Hart was Coastal Conference runner-up in 1985.
The revenge factor: Hart had a chance to break the string in a similar situation last year, but lost in the opener, 6-3, when quarterback Jim Bonds was tackled just short of the Canyon goal on the last play of the game. That means that the Indians lost their two biggest games of the year, the first and the last.
"There's more pressure on Hart than on us," Canyon Coach Harry Welch said. "They almost have to beat us. Last year, they lost a heartbreaker and it took them a month to get going again. This year is supposed to be their year, and I know they've been saying that for about the past three years, but I know they have a tremendous team."
The rankings: The teams have switched conferences, with Hart rated No. 1 in the Northwestern Conference in the Southern Section's preseason poll, and Canyon ranked No. 2 behind Pasadena Muir in the Coastal. The Times' Southern Section rankings will appear Wednesday.
The crowd: Between 8,000 and 10,000 are expected to attend.
"As a public service announcement to everyone, I should say right now to get there by 5:30 or 6," Scott said. "If they get there any later, they may have to sit in the weeds on the slopes. I've had close to 150 people call me and ask for guaranteed tickets or to see if we can set aside a block of seats for the parents or booster groups."
The quarterbacks: Bonds, a senior, is a returning All-Coastal Conference pick who passed for 2,400 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 600 yards last season. Senior Ken Sollom didn't make his first start for Canyon last year until the opening round of the playoffs, after John Watkins broke his left arm in the previous game. Sollom passed for eight touchdowns to lead the Cowboys to their third straight conference title. Both are definite college prospects.
"There may be a better quarterback over at Hart, but if you have a Bo Derek and a Raquel Welch, they're just different types of 10s," Welch said. "That's what we have here."
The hype: It has come from the community, the media and the teams.
"I've never been in any pre-championship game like this," Welch said. "This is as big a game as you are going to get this time of the year. There's just too much--too much tradition, too much national awareness because of the players who have come from here in the last couple years. I talk to some recruiters and they say that the two best quarterbacks in the state may be at Canyon and Hart."
Said Scott: "What with the community spirit, this is the biggest game of the year, CIF playoffs or whatever."
Bigger than a championship game?
The schools share the field at College of the Canyons during the season, and it usually works out that one is at home and the other away on Friday nights.
In this instance, Canyon will be the home team. That doesn't have too much significance until you consider . . .
. . . what the program sales will be like with 10,000 fans.
Huntington Beach Edison made a double trip Sunday on a flight from Hawaii: a return to Los Angeles and a return to reality.
The Chargers opened the football season last Thursday night by disposing of St. Anthony of Maui, 21-0, after enjoying a practice schedule befitting such a trip. Next up, however, is El Modena of Orange, the ninth-ranked team in the Southern Conference preseason poll.
"When you're practicing right under Diamond Head, it doesn't quite have the same effect," first-year Coach Dave White said. "We'll have to kick the sand out of our shoes today and get down to business."
Three starters have graduated, but that doesn't necessarily mean much of a change for the Manhattan Beach Mira Costa girls' volleyball team. In fact, it doesn't mean any change in the polls, where the Mustangs open the season in the same spot they finished.